NOT NOW, BERNARD
based on the picture-book by David McKee.
Unicorn Theatre 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 1 May 2014.
11am 2 Mar, 23, 24, 30 Apr, 1 May.
12.30pm 21, 28 Feb, 1, 8 Mar
1.30pm 23, 24, 29, 30 Apr, 1 May.
2.30pm 20, 21 Feb.
4.30pm 23 Apr.
(the above are dates with availability at time of review.).
also tour 15 March-27 April; 7-18 May.
Runs 45min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560. (Unicorn performances).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.
Colourful, playful yet serious and keeping the picture-book clarity.
There’s only one big event in this adaptation, for 2+, of David McKee’s 1980 picture-book. It’s announced, it’s represented by a scrunching sound effect. It isn’t seen but it transforms the only character – yet things carry on as before. Which is the point of the story.
Despite its fantasy element, the staging’s success lies in making evident an experience young spectators will recognise. For Rhys Rusbatch’s Bernard, life is lived on the margin, surrounded by giant things. The plain white walls around the corridor-like space is outside the rooms where his parents get on with life.
It’s in these rooms, occasionally glimpsed through doors, the giant figures of Dad and Mum go about household work, with no time or concern for Bernard. For Bernard’s is also an ankle-going-on-knee-high view of life.
His first entry takes several goes as he gradually overcomes surprise and shyness to join us all – venturing a little more each time, playing with the only toys he has – his own body and his clothes. There’s an oversized awkwardness to the bright garments he wears, as if he’s still not become used to wearing clothes as a natural part of life.
Such routines, daily details, repeated with a young child’s enthusiastic delight and curiosity, make-up a considerable part of this show’s early stages. The humour lies in realising how strange, and potentially difficult, details of normal life can be when looked-at closely.
Bernard’s too young to reason this out, but the challenge of an empty room, the imaginative scope of toes wiggled in a sock, are evident. He sees these things as natural, as he does the possibility of being eaten by a Monster. More imaginatively, he becomes the Monster, his face peering from its outlandish costume. Yet the family’s familiar routines continue, his parents too preoccupied to notice Bernard’s transformation.
Buoyed along by a silent comedy ‘wrong-note’ score (why is there no music credit?), with inventive antics and the comic surprise of parental accidents when son Bernard speaks to them, and complete ignoring of monster Bernard, it makes for a resonant translation to the stage.
Bernard/Monster: Rhys Rusbatch.
Director: Ellen McDougall.
Designer: James Button.
Lighting: Phil Clarke.
Sound: Elena Peña.
15 Mar 10.30am & 2pm Berry Theatre Hedge End Southampton 01489 799499 www.theberrytheatre.co.uk
16 Mar 11.30am & 2.30pm Quarterhouse Folkestone 01303 858500 www.quarterhouse.co.uk
19 Mar 10.30am & 1.30pm Square Chapel Halifax 01422 349422 www.squarechapel.co.uk
22 Mar 11am & 2pm Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre 01429 890000
29-30 Mar 11am & 2pm Derby Theatre 01332 593939 www.derbytheatre.co.uk
4 Apr 10.30am Z Arts Manchester 0161 232 6089 www.z-arts.org
6 Apr 1.30pm & 3.30pm Waterside Theatre Sale 0161 912 5616
8 Apr 11am & 2.30pm Burnley Arts Centre 01282 458655 www.
10-12 Apr 11.30am & 3pm The Egg Bath 01225 4488844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
15-19 Apr Tue 4pm, Wed-Fri 11am, Wed-Thu 2pm Sherman Theatre Cardiff 029 2064 6900 www.shermancymru.co.uk
26-27 Apr Sat 10.30am & 1.30pm; Sun 1.30pm & 3.30pm Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham 0115 846 7777 www.lakesidearts.org.uk
7, 8, 10 May Wed 10.15am & 1.15pm; Thu 10.30am & 1.30pm, Sat 11.45am & 2.45pm Relaxed performance Thu 1.30pm Traverse Theatre Edinburgh www.imaginate.org.uk
11 May 12pm & 2pm Macrobert Centre Stirling 01786 466666 www.macrobert.org
17-18 May Norfolk & Norwich Festival 01603 766400 www.nnfestival.org.uk